I do remember sitting on Grandpa Oz's knee and listening to him sing carols in Norwegian. That's the only real memory I have of him. I was six when he died.
Christmas Eve was the day my grandmother and grandfather married. They celebrated 50 years together. The next year, 1994, she was fighting for her life. We always had Christmas Day at their house, until that year. Then we loaded our presents into the car and drove the 350 miles to the hospital she was in. We stayed in a hotel across the street from the hospital so that we could just walk over. I remember opening my presents there. Eating at the hospital cafeteria. Sitting around a lot. Relatives crying. Grandma Lou didn't make it.
So many of my Christmas memories and traditions are woven in with my grandparents, and I've felt that every Christmas since has been in some way wrong because of the lack of those traditions. My mother's mother, Grandma Cec, made Scandinavian treats like krumkake and fatigman every Christmas. I make krumkake now in her memory, and I remember fondly helping her make fatigman...I wish I'd paid more attention to how it was made. She was gone in September 2002, but I was at college and the impact didn't come to me until I was home in December. No wonder I ended up moving out to be with my now-husband that December. I couldn't stand the thought of Christmas without her.
I sort-of made plans to return home for Christmas last year. But it wouldn't happen. Grandpa Don, my father's father, died in the spring. I couldn't face it. I stayed away, like a coward, too afraid to meet the family I hadn't seen since before I got married (I had eloped). Grandpa Don always made the best pies.
I'm afraid to go "home" for Christmas now, because "home" had my grandparents the last time I was there. At least, it had Grandma Cec and Grandpa Don the last time I was there. Grandma Cec taught me to sing "Stille Nacht" in German. I've forgotten how it goes. I'm sorry.
So that's why I spend my Christmas with just my husband, far away. I'm making this my Christmas, and I'm afraid to face the changes to the Christmas I remember.